My dog King is old now, heading toward 13. Over the past year he has been walking much slower, as I previously reported. An x-ray of his hips and back showed advanced arthritis. We put him on Rimadyl to help with pain.
His panting worsened, I noticed. Also, he seemed to become more tired, and then he fell down the last few steps in my stairway. So, back to the vet. Because I have written so much about heart disease, I suspected he was having some kind of Afib in the night. His symptoms reminded me of those described by patients I had interviewed for consumer health articles. I told the vet of my suspicion and concern that King had developed a heart problem, that is was more than painful hips.
The vet gave him several tests: a chest x-ray, which appeared normal, several blood tests, which also were normal for an old dog, and an EKG. The vet immediately warned me that King’s heart rate was concerning, so slow he almost could not hear it, and so very fast. The EKG was transmitted to an animal cardiologist in Annapolis who gave us the bad news the next day.
King has ‘Sick Sinus Syndrome,‘ a relatively rare electrical problem of the heart that human beings get too. The prognosis is not that great for dogs. The heart goes from beating way too fast to beating hardly at all. He could go on for a while, who knows how long. Or, he could suddenly drop dead.
People visit a cardiologist and most likely would get a pacemaker and then try and figure out a drug to treat the racing heart. An electrophysiologist (specialized cardiologist) may do a cardiac ablation to destroy problem tissues in the heart that are sending the errant electrical impulses.
It’s not that easy for King. Considering his advanced age and the serious arthritic damage in his back and both hips, trying to treat a damaged heart isn’t in the cards. I can’t even imagine the cost. He isn’t covered by Medicare or Blue Cross.
This heart problem in dogs isn’t normally found as early as we found it. From what I understand, a dog with it often just faints and collapses. The owner will do CPR and think it helped. It didn’t. It is adrenaline that brings back the dog, not CPR. He either wakes up or dies, on his own. From what I understand, there is no way to prevent this disease. It’s not from eating too much or exercising too little. It’s probably genetic, and something that develops with age.
I thought I would share this story as it is so hard to know what is wrong with our dogs. They can’t tell us where it hurts, or how it feels. They just depend upon us to make them feel better.
Symptoms of heart disease can be:
Panting for no obvious reason
Loss of appetite (King never loses interest in food!)